Comparative Literature | Sexuality and the Arts: Gender and Border-Crossing in the Arts
C546 | 1140 | Prof. Jones

This course will explore the semiological fluidity of gender in
literary, visual, and performing arts.  The chief emphasis will be on
homosexuality, androgyny, trans-sexuality, sadomasochism, and other
forms of border-crossing conspicuous in popular culture from the early
modern to contemporary times. Also to be examined is gender in various
types of descent from traditional categories in form/genre (theatrical
and film adaptations of literature, for example), style (high and
low), in language/culture (translation and cross-cultural
interpretation). The general interest of the course is the "liquid"
structure of the arts, which challenges any phallocentric way of

The course itself is fluid.   It will not take a single or cohesive
theoretical perspective but will experiment with a variety of concepts
that may be useful for individual students' pursuits of topics in
specific texts of their choice.  Each member is encouraged to develop
a firm critical position during the semester.   Conflicting
perspectives are expected to inspire debates in class and enrich our
study. The syllabus and reading materials will be adjusted to the
individual members' chosen topics. For this reason, those interested
in this course are asked to get in touch with the instructor by email
during this semester.

Any form of art (including architecture and advertisements, for
example) and materials in any culture/language will be welcome. The
instructor will introduce some examples of Japanese and other Asian
arts, where fluidity of gender is conspicuous. The instructor waits
for the students' suggestions, but the texts she has in mind as
starters include: Roland Barthes' S/Z, Georges Bateille's Story of the
Eye, Thomsa Mann's Death in Venice, Yukio Mishima's Forbidden Colors,
and the films, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, M. Butterfly, and Paris
is Burning. Theoretical readings may include: Judith Butler's Gender
Trouble, Gilles Deleuze's Masochism, Laura Mulvey's Visual and Other
Pleasures, and Kari Weil's Androgyny and the Denial of Difference. All
readings will be in English.

One of the purposes of the course is practical: to train students
in conference presentation, which may lead to success in publication
and job search. Each member will give one working-paper presentation
and act as discussant for another's. The instructor will give advice
on improving the paper and on appropriate conferences to which the
paper may be submitted. The completed papers will be presented at a
symposium to be organized by the instructor and chaired by one or two
of the members of the class at the end of the semester. Toward the
symposium, the students will rehearse the delivery to acquire
effective skills and manners for public presentation.

This course is open to graduate students only.